2011 Chamber’s (rosewood) Noble muscadelle, screwcap 11.3%

Chambers of Rutherglen is not the first winery that springs to mind for its sweet white wines; fortifieds yes; VFM red wines, and obscurities (anyone for Gouais) perhaps? Australia has made botrytis-affected wines from many varieties, principally Riesling and Semillon, but there have been some adventures in Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Viognier and even Marsanne. Some of these were made deliberately, others where circumstances forced the winemaking decisions.

2011 was a pretty dire year for winemaking in Victoria, and much of Australia (although Margaret River fared well, and McLaren Vale reasonably well). There was unseasonal rain, making spraying difficult- tractors got bogged- and plenty of rot. Most red wines from Victoria lacked colour, and density. Matters were not so bleak with white wines, and there are some scintillating Chardonnays made that year in the Yarra Valley.

There have been a few late-picked or botrytised muscadelles from Rutherglen (Pfeiffer’s is known), so its not unique. Muscadelle is the variety used in making Australia’s sensational barrel-aged fortified Topaques (formerly Tokay). The late-picked style is cash-flow friendly too.

From my unreliable memory, Chambers has made this botrytis style before in 1996 and 2000, and perhaps in other years, so they have a track record, although those seasons were much kinder. I paid $15 for this half-bottle a few years ago.

2011 chambers

Its an attractive glowing deep gold colour with a hint of amber. While the bouquet is vibrant ramshackle orange marmalade, tangelo and dark honey, botrytis has performed its magic fruit concentration role on the palate, and its clearer that that flavours fall into the “dark” orange marmalade, and marginally overripe apricot fruit spectrum. The botrytis has overwhelmed any varietal characters – no bad thing. There is some bitterness too, but not enough to dissipate the wine’s pleasures.

There is considerable sweetness, and while the acid is holding this together, I would recommend drinking soon, before the phenolics take over. No embarrassment to drink; the glass seems to empty of its own volition.

Score 89 points, drink to 2019.


NV Chambers rosewood rare tokay (17%)

What’s in a name? This wine is labelled as Tokay, made from Muscadelle grapes , and the style is generally now called Topaque.

Chambers Rosewood is a long-established winery in Rutherglen. I used to travel there with my parents, and the welcome was “wine is in the fridge on the verandah – help yourselves” from legend Bill Chambers. You poured into “shot-glasses” and most wine was available by the bottle and flagon.

Despite modernisation over the years, there is still a baffling – and large range of wines available to taste, with some varieties I haven’t seen elsewhere.

nv chambers tokay

A lovely lunchtime treat (served blind, as usual).

The first thing that impresses is the colour, a dark motor oil, brown yet still with a green/khaki rim. Great age suspected, and it was viscous, reluctant to swirl. Then it amazes with just how much flavour can be compressed into its volume; there is the varietal muscadelle tea and malt, plus some almond and mocha; (no butterscotch here though, another typical descriptor). And it goes on, just defying my efforts to keep smelling and stop sipping.  If only I could have a bigger glass! And a bewildering long finish; amazing.

Its the top quality tier – “rare” which describes these luscious beauties well. They have had many years maturing in barrels, become denser and richer.

But these decadent Rutherglen fortifieds are not just about aged material; there is the mastery to blend in some younger, fresher material; so the density and concentration is not cloying – a treasure. The price ($250 per half bottle), in world terms is fair. A half bottle would be nicely shared with 4 people, and provide an outstanding sensory experience.

Drink now – 98 points!